Building endurance is hard when you're a beginner runner, and a lot of people think you have to run as much as possible to get there. Every day, every other day; it feels like the more you run, the better you'll get, the longer you'll be able to hit the roads without getting tired. And while running every day might burn lots of calories and turn you into a runner fast, it may not be the best way to get in shape, whether you're training for a race or just trying to increase your cardio fitness.
Is Running Every Day Bad For You?
"Initially, I tell runners not to run on back-to-back days for the first few weeks," said Sander Rubin, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Northwestern Medicine. The reason? Injury prevention, which, as runners old and new can attest, is one of the biggest ways to sink a running habit. Running is hard on your body. It's a lot of pounding and repetitive work, hitting the same joints over and over again. Your knees, shins, and hips are particularly susceptible to pain and injury when you're a new runner, especially if you're jumping in with multiple miles every day.
Running every day isn't necessary to build endurance either. In a previous interview, exercise physiologist and marathoner Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, recommended an endurance-building training plan that includes running three times a week, every other day, along with strength workouts and cross training.
How Can I Build Up to Running Every Day?
However, if running daily is a goal you have, Dr. Rubin recommended increasing your mileage very slowly. After a few weeks of running on nonconsecutive days, you can gradually introduce back-to-back runs, starting with just two per week and slowly working upwards. At the same time, he said, "Try not to increase your overall mileage by more than 10 percent each week." Those precautions give your body time to adjust and decrease your risk of injuries that result from muscle and tendon overuse, plus painful stress fractures. Building up slowly gives you more energy for your runs as well, Dr. Rubin said.
Even if you're more advanced and running multiple, consecutive days per week, Dr. Rubin advised taking at least one weekly rest day. Try doing a basic yoga sequence or some cross training (try these swimming or cycling workouts) to work your muscles in a different way and help them recover while staying strong for your next run.
If you're building up for a race, Dr. Rubin recommended using a training plan: here's one for a 5K, half-marathon, and full marathon to get you started. And when it comes to building up the endurance to conquer those longer distances, it's definitely not mandatory to incorporate daily jogs into your routine, especially if you're just starting to run. "Ease into things, and try not to overdo it too quickly," Dr. Rubin said. Endurance won't necessarily come with fast, hard, daily runs that might burn you out or get you hurt. It's a cliché, but it's apt in this case: building up your stamina is a marathon, not a sprint!